Estrogen Therapy May Protect Women Who Have Had Hysterectomies

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Have you had a hysterectomy and are experiencing menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes? If so, a new study suggests that you should talk to your doctor about taking estrogen replacement therapy as protection for heart attacks and death.

    And there may be many of you reading this sharepost who have had a hysterectomy. According to Barbara Seaman and Laura Eldridge in The No-Nonsense Guide to Menopause, approximately one-third of American women undergo surgical removal of their uteruses as well as their ovaries. Furthermore, many of these women are still menstruating. Therefore, women who have a hysterectomy while still getting their periods often go through a premature and tough menopause.

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    Unfortunately, there are many health consequences that may emerge after this procedure, causing women and their doctors to search for treatments. However, worry based on headlines about the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study results caused considerable panic since it found that combination hormone therapy can increase a woman's risk for breast cancer, stroke, heart disease and blood clots. In the aftermath of these findings, the use of any type of hormone therapy – including estrogen-only as well as the combination of estrogen plus progestin – sharply decreased. However, what went unaddressed is that the WHI study did not apply to women who didn’t have a uterus or to women who were taking estrogen-only hormone therapy.

    Now for the newest study results. Researchers out of Yale University examined estrogen replacement therapy and mortality rates among women between the ages of 50 to 59 who had a hysterectomy. The researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Census, the hysterectomy rate and the decline in estrogen use, which turned out to be nearly 79 percent between 2001 and 2011.

    They then calculated which deaths could be a result of not taking estrogen. Their various calculations found that over the decade, a minimum of 18,601 and as many as 91,610 postmenopausal women who had had a hysterectomy died prematurely because they didn’t take estrogen therapy. The researchers' analysis suggest that estrogen replacement therapy can reduce the risk of heart attack and death. Additionally, the researchers found a clear reduction in diagnosis of breast cancer as well as deaths from breast cancer.

    Earlier research has suggested that estrogen-only therapy offered health benefits for women who had had a hysterectomy. A 2011 study found that estrogen-only therapy can lower deaths by 13 per 10,000 women annually among those who had had a hysterectomy. However, these findings did not translate into increased use of estrogen-only therapy among women who had had this surgical procedure.

    So what does all of this research mean to you if you’re a middle-aged woman who has had a hysterectomy while still having your period? Although I’m not a health care professional, I’d suggest that you follow the recommendation of the Yale researchers. They encouraged women who have had a hysterectomy to have an informed discussion with their health care providers about the effects of estrogen therapy.

  • Most experts encourage women who are considering taking hormone replacement therapy to take the lowest dosage that manages menopausal symptoms. The other caveat that these experts strongly recommend is that you take this dosage for the shortest period of time possible. That timeframe will differ from individual woman to individual woman so you need to really work closely with your doctor or health care provider to ensure that you get the proper treatment for the safest period of time.

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    Primary Resources for This Sharepost:

    MedlinePlus. (2013). Avoidance of hormone therapy may have harmed hysterectomy patients: study.

    Sarrel, P. M., et al. (2013). The mortality toll of estrogen avoidance: An analysis of excess deaths among hysterectomized women aged 50 to 59 years. American Journal of Public Health.

    Seaman, B. & Eldridge, L. (2008). The no-nonsense guide to menopause.  Simon & Schuster.

Published On: July 25, 2013